lunes, mayo 01, 2006

The Touchy Issue

Many US citizens mistakingly think that the United States of America has never been and it will never be a colonialist power.

For some reason they forget their genocide of the Indigenous Americans over land, somehow they forget the way Washington hatched the Texan and Californian "wars of independence", somehow they forget how the USA took advantage of the armed conflict of the remaining colonies of Spain to incorporate the Philipines, Puerto Rico and Florida to their territory.

And God forbid you remind them of how trecherously they behaved when taking control of Hawaii.

Well, seems like the hundreds of thousands of immigrants marching down their streets today demanding the must basic rights reminded some of them of one little issue.

Yes indeed, you got it, the issue about how many of those millions of people being criminalized for working in a society that needs them, are in fact inhabitating today a land that used to belong to them.

Ironic indeed that these immigrants went out to the streets to defend their labor rights on the very streets of Texas, a portion of Mexico that was taken away as to conform a pro-slavery state. Because that is something the fundamentalist neocons always fail to mention, that the war over Texas was a war waged by individuals that believed in the dubious right of possesing other human beings.

Those Texans were themselves immigrants to Mexico, and by the way, they never lived up to the promise they made to the Mexican government that they would integrate to the Mexican society by learning to speak Spanish. Today they dare to tear their robes over an anthem sung in Spanish, hypocrisy at its best.

But lets get to the note that appeared a few minutes ago at Yahoo News:

Old War Haunts Debate Between Mexico, US

By JOHN RICE, Associated Press WriterSun Apr 30, 2:50 PM ET

More than 1 million migrants flood into the United States each year across a border cutting straight through what once was Mexican territory, a touch of history that haunts the immigration debate 158 years after the land changed hands.

The territory north of today's 1,952-mile border — half of Mexico at the time — was ripped away in 1848 after a U.S. invasion that ended with the capture of "the halls of Montezuma," Mexico City itself.

Ulysses S. Grant, who took part, called the invasion "the most unjust war ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation."

The loss changed Mexico's destiny and still tears at the country's heart. Primary school textbooks harp on it. Intellectuals often refer to it. Museums are dedicated to it.

In the United States, some anti-immigration activists see migrants as a threat to American land and culture, part of a Spanish-speaking invasion that will reclaim the American Southwest.

Their concern is fed by occasional Mexican references to the booming immigrant population as a "reconquista," or re-conquest, and by the Mexican government's efforts to reinforce the migrants' ties to their homeland.

When hundreds of thousands of mainly Latino marchers turned out for a pro-immigrant demonstration Los Angeles in March, Mexican television reporter Alberto Tinoco sounded almost giddy.

"With all due respect to Uncle Sam, this shows that Los Angeles has never stopped being ours," Tinoco said on the Televisa network's nightly newscast.

Prominent Mexican writers Elena Poniatowska and Carlos Fuentes have spoken sometimes of a "reconquista." Poniatowska says Mexicans are recovering their lost lands "through migratory tactics." Fuentes portrays it as a powerful northward thrust of the Spanish language that will enrich both nations.

It may not be on the minds of job-seeking migrants, but the memory of the Mexican-American war "is a very important issue in the bilateral relationship. And it's always kind of floating around in the background ... at the diplomatic levels," said Ana Maria Salazar, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense who now works as a political analyst in Mexico.

"Re-conquest," too, may be misleading. Before the war, most people in the Mexican territory north of the current border, from California to Texas, were Indians. They spoke little Spanish and paid little allegiance to Mexico.

Spain began establishing missions in "Alta California" shortly before the American Revolution, and the land became Mexico's after its own independence from Spain in 1821. But only a few thousand Spaniards and Mexicans were living in the area when the United States took the 525,000 square miles under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo decades later, paying $18.25 million in cash and assumed debts — the equivalent of about $434 million today.

The treaty also included Mexico's first formal recognition of the loss of Texas, which won its independence in 1836 and was absorbed by the United States in 1845.

Just as Texans used the temporary loss of the Alamo to Mexico in 1836 as a rallying cry, Mexicans have made national heroes of fighters slain resisting the American invaders 11 years later: the "child heroes" who reportedly jumped to their deaths rather than surrender and the San Patricio Battalion of Irish soldiers who put up a ferocious defense at the Churubusco monastery in Mexico City.

The monastery is now Mexico City's National Museum of Interventions — and the scars on its walls from American guns fired 159 years ago years later are carefully tended.

Yet after visitors tour exhibits decrying the aggression that "mutilated" the nation, they can stop by the museum souvenir shop to find Mickey Mouse computer games and a "Movie Talk" course in learning English.

In fact, many Mexicans complain about U.S. domination. Mexico City's Independence Monument has been ringed by buildings bearing the names of Ford, Sheraton and American Express, with the U.S. Embassy a few steps away. Mexicans watch "Los Simpsons" and NFL football on television and shop at Wal-Mart, Mexico's largest private employer.

The inroads of the English language have met official resistance, at times with comical results. Officially mandated "perro caliente" never caught on as a substitute for "hot dog."

And the migrants themselves, changed by the culture of the United States, are helping to change Mexico.

"Even the way they view and understand politics is different, and the expectations they have on the way the political process would work," said Salazar, whose own life story makes her case.

Born in the United States, she spent her childhood in Mexico, earned degrees at the University of California-Berkeley and Harvard, served in the Pentagon and then returned to Mexico, where she runs possibly the only predominantly English-language radio program in the country.

Poniatowska, too, says migrants become different from the people they leave behind — no longer the "race of bronze" portrayed by Mexican nationalists, but people with "a new way of being, and a new way of experiencing their country."

Less philosophical is Rafael Palacios Franco, who runs a small tourist camp east of Mexico City and who has four children in the United States.

"A long time ago, they took half the country from us," he said. "Now we don't want them to give it back, just that they let us work there."


Associated Press reporter Mark Stevenson contributed to this report.


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